Saturday, March 20, 2010

Riverside and Parking, Pt. I

While there are lots of pieces to the Riverside story, it's starts and ends with parking. Parking defines the current site and parking will define whatever gets built.

The station, in its current configuration, is a T-friendly, neighborhood-unfriendly suburban park-and-ride model. There are roughly 1,000 spaces. The drivers who fill those spaces drive through Newton streets (though some come off 128), but contribute little to Newton.

Riverside Station is a big ol' slab of suburban sprawl, with all its attendant ills. (Compounding the problem, the MBTA has turned Riverside into another kind of parking lot: for trolleys. As other lots have closed, Riverside absorbs more and more storage and service.)

Park-and-ride, though, is a good model for the MBTA. The Green Line itself, like all T services, operates at a deficit. But, parking is a revenue generating proposition. So park-and-ride sprawl makes sense from a very limited perspective.

From the wider perspective, park-and-ride is a short-sighted disaster. Each mass transit station is an opportunity to create denser, walkable, sustainable communities. Setting aside, for the time being, the question of whether Newton can absorb more housing -- a reasonable concern -- these opportunities should not be squandered on surface parking to be used by people whose only connection to the site is to drive to and from.

The MBTA is, sorta, exploiting the opportunity with the planned development at Riverside. But, it's a half-assed, revenue-inspired nod to Smart Growth, not a full commitment to sustainable development.

How so? The MBTA has hobbled the developer with a requirement that the new development include the same number of park-and-ride spaces. So long as there is that requirement, it won't work and Newton should reject any plan.

It's a relatively small site. Even concentrating the parking in a garage, the parking will overwhelm the site and limit the opportunity to create the kind of walkable, sustainable, mixed-use development that the site deserves.

And, it's a site with relatively limited access. The surrounding community cannot absorb the traffic to be generated by the new uses on top of the traffic already generated by the 1,000 commuter spaces.

Newton's got to make the MBTA choose to develop the site right and give up the park-and-ride, or not develop at all.


Anonymous said...

Having just seen've got to be kidding. The area as a whole (not just Newton), should make out better promoting public transportation, and you want to hobble that effort by denying the MBTA the ability to have at least the number of spots for commuters as it had before? At terminals like this, there should be more spots built, not the same or fewer. That's been a problem around commuter rail stations for a long time. Do you even live around there? And now you want to make it worse? How many houses do you figure are within walking distance around there? You make it harder and harder for people to use public transportation, and then you wonder why, and complain that it has to be subsidized. I looked you up. You live in Newton Center. What in the world are you doing trying to limit commuter parking out at Riverside. You want a walkable community? You say that out of one side of your mouth, but you admit that a sizable number of spots are needed for the new uses the developement is bringing. The number of homes within walking distance of that place will not sustain those businesses. Whoever else is reading this, do a search on Sean and find ideas like: charging tolls for people who drive through Newton but don't stop to buy anything. You're lobbying for your own little enclave, miles west of where you live, and you want to hobble the MBTA to boot. Mabye you should talk to some people that live out there? How many people who use Riverside live in Newton and use that MBTA parking? There must be quite a few if you consider how many folks can actually walk there, vs. how many travel via T. Your restrictions would kill the development, kill the commuter advantages, and even possibly kill the traffic within Newton, as folks will be forced to find parking at Newton Highlands, Newton Center, Eliot, etc. Lemme guess, you don't have a degree in city, let alone, urban planning do you?

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